Friday, 2 August 2013

From the ground up

Day 63 - 31 de Julio: Esmeraldas and Camarones

Today, the alarm was set for 7:40. It was a good time - i was excited for the day ahead. 8 am was breakfast, then by 8:30, we were ready to leave for our volunteer site. Yes, it was our first day of volunteer at Camarones. It was the coolest transportation to get there - we all jumped into the back of an old pickup truck and were taken about 15 minutes down the road to the site. We got some amazing ocean views along the way. We entered the Camarones and were greeted by the waves and smiling faces of many of the locals. The houses we were to build were actually not in the main part of the town - we drove up a hill beside the town to the worksite. This way, the team had more control of the area. We jumped out of the back of the truck at the top and were shown around the site. I was surprised - we were told that by the time we would arrive all that would be left would be painting. But the majority of these houses weren't completed yet! There were many jobs for us to do, so we were divided into teams to get stuff done. My team's first job was applying concrete to the outside walls of a house. The technique was difficult - when i scraped the wooden spatula of concrete against the house, most of it fell off onto the ground. But after some practice, i got better. However, even if we got all the concrete on, there would still be holes and patches on the walls that we missed. So, i took a metal spatula and took it upon myself to do some of the patch work. Half way through our morning shift, we swapped jobs with the other team. Keep in mind that over here, they don't have automatic machines for even the most mundane of tasks. For example, to mix the concrete, they needed not just the mix, but also sand and water. Our next job was to sift the pile of sand to remove the rocks. You don't usually think about the convenience of being able to buy pre-sifted sand back home. But we sure realized this after an hour and a bit of hand sifting. It was a good workout though. By noon, the truck took us back home for lunch. It wasn't quite ready yet, but this was fine because the first though of all of us was jumping into the pool here. The sun had been so hot on the worksite, that we were craving that "luke cold" water. That term was coined by one of the guys yesterday, but it couldn't have been more accurate. We only stayed in this pool for about 15 minutes, then hung out all in different places. I went down to the beach with a few of the group. I had to borrow money from a couple people again for a drink, so I was awaiting our trip into town tonight to withdrawal money. I got a gatorade - the first one i've ever seen in a glass bottle. Next was lunch - we had an excellent breaded shrimp lunch - freshly caught on the ocean we were looking at. After that morning of work, I was pretty hungry so it didn't last long. By 2:30, we were ready to be driven back to the worksite for shift 2 of the day. My job for the majority of the time was laying chicken wire on the outside walls of the houses. It seemed like an odd task, but without this chicken wire, the concrete would not stick to the walls. It was pretty smart actually. This was another task by hand that made you appreciate all the machines back home. We would lay it down, and nail it into wherever the men on site told us to. I'm slowly regaining my spanish but i'm still really in portuguese mode. I was glad though, by the end, i was talking with the guys working with us. I could ask them questions about the construction techniques and tell them a bit about myself. Anyway, when the supplies started to run out for the day, it was time to head back. The sun was starting to set and it was beautiful on this Pacific coast. We were brought back to home base for only enough time to get cleaned up, then it was time to check out the city of Esmeraldas. Our ride there though was even more amusing. It was another one of those pickup trucks with the wooded box in the back, except this one was half the size. We all loaded into this box and sat down, squished like sardines. It was fun though - as we travelled down the highway, we felt like we were being smuggled into Columbia (which happens to be fairly close to where we were staying). All we needed was a tarp over the box. Lol. We were taken to a shopping mall for dinner and looking around. I got my first Ecuadorian lasagna from the food court - it was good, but again, quite different from home. After, i tried to get onto the mall's wifi but it didn't last for very long. It died only a few minutes after a submitted my blog posts. It seems like for many of our stays, we may not have access to wifi - i'm assuming that when we're in actual hotels we probably will though. The place we are staying at now though is pretty low star accommodation. It's not bothering me though - the past week, i've been sleeping on a patio, a beach and an airplane. This is luxury in terms of sleeping. On our way back, we all agreed that we were glad that our group was so small for this particular program. We only have ten, so it's much easier to get to know everyone. We finished off the night back in camp with a few beers and some card games. Everything here is so cheap (especially the beers) so i imagine this will be a common way to end most of our days. It's a 7:30 wakeup tomorrow and another day of work ahead. 

Back of the truck
The worksite
More of the houses
Some local kids
A nice sunset

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